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A version of the flag frequently used by Occitan activists.
Linguistic map of Occitania

Occitania (Occitan: Occitània [utsiˈtanjɔ][1][2]), also called sometimes the Oc Country (Occitan lo País d'Òc), is the territory where Occitan is the traditional language in use. This cultural area is roughly the southern half of France. It includes Monaco, spans parts of Italy (Occitan Valleys) and Spain (Aran Valley). Occitania has been recognized as a cultural concept since the Middle Ages, but has never been a legal nor a political entity under this name, although the territory was united in Roman times (Septem Provinciae[1]) and the early Middle Ages (Aquitanica or the Visigothic Kingdom of Toulouse[2]) before the French conquest started in the 1200s.

Presently, about 3 million people out of 14 million in the area have a proficient knowledge of Occitan[3]; the main languages in Occitania are French, Italian, Catalan and Spanish. The Aran Valley of Spain is the only area where an Occitan dialect is an official language (along with Spanish and Catalan).

Under Roman rule (355), most of Occitania was known as Aquitania[4], itself part of the Seven Provinces with a wider Provence, while the northern provinces of what is now France were called Gallia (Gaul). Aquitaine (or Aquitanica) is also a name used since medieval times for Occitania (i.e. Limousin, Auvergne, Languedoc and Gascony), including Provence as well in the early 500s. Aquitaine must not be confused with the modern French region called Aquitaine too: this is the main reason why the term Occitania was revived in the mid-19th century. The name "Occitan language" (Occitana lingua) appeared in Latin texts from 1290[5] and during the following years of the early 14th century; texts exist in which the area is refered to indirectly as "the country of the Occitan language" (Patria Linguae Occitanae). This derives from the name Lenga d'òc that was used in Italian (Lingua d'òc) by Dante in the late 13th century. Occitan and Lenga d'òc both refer to the centuries-old set of Romance dialects that use òc for "yes".



Occitania includes the following regions:

Occitan or langue d'oc (lenga d'òc) is a Latin-based Romance language in the same way as Spanish, Italian or French. There are six main regional varieties with easy intercomprehension among them: Provençal (including Niçard spoken in the vicinity of Nice), Vivaroalpenc, Auvernhat, Lemosin, Gascon (including Bearnés spoken in Béarn) and Lengadocian. All these varieties of the Occitan language are written and valid. Standard Occitan is a synthesis which respects soft regional adaptations. See also Northern Occitan and Southern Occitan.

Catalan is a language very similar to Occitan and there are quite strong historical and cultural links between Occitania and Catalonia.


Written texts in Occitan appeared in the 10th century: it was used at once in legal then literary, scientific and religious texts. The spoken dialects of Occitan are centuries older and appeared as soon as the 8th century, at least, revealed in toponyms or in Occitanized words left in Latin manuscripts, for instance.

Occitania was often politically united during the Early Middle Ages, under the Visigothic Kingdom and several Merovingian and Carolingian sovereigns. In Thionville, nine years before he died (805), Charlemagne vowed that his empire be partitioned into three autonomous territories according to nationalities and mother tongues: along with the Franco-German and Italian ones, was roughly what is now modern Occitania from the reunion of a broader Provence and Aquitaine.[6] But things didn't go according to plan and at the division of the Frankish Empire (9th century), Occitania was split into different counties, duchies and kingdoms, bishops and abbots, self-governing communes of its walled cities. Since then the country was never politically united again, though Occitania was united by a common culture which used to cross easily the political, constantly moving boundaries. Occitania suffered a tangle of varying loyalties to nominal sovereigns: from the 9th to the 13th centuries, the dukes of Aquitaine, the counts of Foix, the counts of Toulouse and the Aragonese kings rivalled in their attempts at controlling the various pays of Occitania.

Occitan literature was glorious and flourishing at that time: in the 12th and 13th centuries, the troubadours invented courtly love (fin'amor) and the Lenga d'Òc spread throughout all European cultivated circles. Actually, the terms Lenga d'Òc, Occitan, and Occitania appeared at the end of the 13th century.

But from the 13th to the 17th centuries, the French kings gradually conquered Occitania, sometimes by war and slaughtering the population, sometimes by annexation with subtle political intrigue. From the end of the 15th century, the nobility and bourgeoisie started learning French while the people stuck to Occitan (this process began from the 13th century in two northernmost regions, northern Limousin and Bourbonnais). In 1539, Francis I issued the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts that imposed the use of French in administration.

In 1789, the revolutionary committees tried to re-establish the autonomy of the "Midi" regions: they used the Occitan language but the Jacobin power neutralized them.

The 19th century witnessed a strong revival of the Occitan literature and the writer Frédéric Mistral was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1904.

But from 1881 onwards, children who spoke Occitan at school were punished in accordance with minister Jules Ferry's recommendations. That led to a deprecation of the language known as la vergonha (the shaming): everyone spoke Occitan in 1914, but French gained the upper hand during the 20th century. The situation got worse with the media excluding the use of the langue d'oc. In spite of that decline, the Occitan language is still alive and trying to gain fresh impetus.

Outer settlements

Although not really a colony in a modern sense, there was an enclave in the County of Tripoli. Raymond IV of Toulouse founded it in 1102 during the Crusades north of Jerusalem. Most people of this county came from Occitania and Italy and so the Occitan language was spoken.


There are 14 to 16 million inhabitants in Occitania today. According to the 1999 census, there are 610,000 native speakers and another million persons with some exposure to the language. Native speakers of Occitan are to be found mostly in the older generations. The Institut d'Estudis Occitans (IEO) has been modernizing the Occitan language since 1945, and the Conselh de la Lenga Occitana (CLO) since 1996. Nowadays Occitan is used in the most modern musical and literary styles such as rock 'n roll, folk rock (Lou Dalfin), detective stories or science-fiction. It is represented on the internet. Association schools (Calandretas) teach children in Occitan.

The Occitan political movement for self-government has existed since the beginning of the 20th century and particularly since post-war years (Partit Occitan, Partit de la Nacion Occitana, Anaram Au Patac, Iniciativa Per Occitània, Paratge, etc.). The movement remains negligible in electoral and political terms. Major demonstrations in Carcassonne (2005) and Béziers 2007) and the week-long Estivada festival in Rodez 2006) suggest that there is a revival of Occitan language and culture. However, in France, Occitan is still not recognized as an official language, as the status of French has been constitutionally protected since 1992, and Occitan activists want the French government to adopt Occitan as the second official language for seven regions representing the South of France.


The Romantic music composer Déodat de Séverac was born in the region, and, following his schooling in Paris, he returned to the region to compose. He sought to incorporate the music indigenous to the area in his compositions.

Notable people from Occitania

See also


  1. ^ Regional pronunciations: Occitània = [u(k)siˈtanjɔ, ukʃiˈtanjɔ, u(k)siˈtanja], also Occitania = [utsitanˈi(j)ɔ].
  2. ^ When speaking Occitan, Occitania can be easily referred to as lo país, i.e. 'the country'.
  3. ^ World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous People,
  4. ^ Jean-Pierre JUGE (2001) Petit précis - Chronologie occitane - Histoire & civilisation, p. 14
  5. ^ Robèrt LAFONT (1986) "La nominacion indirècta dels païses", Revue des langues romanes nº2, tome XC, pp. 161-171
  6. ^ Jean-Pierre JUGE (2001) Petit précis - Chronologie occitane - Histoire & civilisation, p. 19

External links



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also Occitània




Proper noun




  1. The region of Europe corresponding roughly to Southern France where the Occitan language was traditionally spoken.


See also


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